Life’s better with a buddy

Laptop and paperI’m an introvert. I did an online test once and it said I am 3% extroverted and 97% introverted. That seems fair. (It was this test, if you are interested.) However, I still understand the isolation that can come with working from home or alone in an office. It can sap your confidence and make it hard to maintain your motivation.

In a quest to make sure that I still had some social skills, I joined the nearest Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) local group for a lunch meeting. I came away from that lunch with the feeling that I had finally found my people. It was great to be able to speak to people with a lot of the same concerns as me, and who had been through a lot of the same experiences on the journey to becoming a fully fledged editorial professional. Not only that but they were friendly and kind and welcoming.

I had colleagues to speak to now, but that was every other month. I still spent much of my working time with a feeling of having no connection to other people in my field. The SfEP forums are great, and Twitter fills some of the social void, but it was still easy to get caught up inside my own head.

There had been a discussion at one of the local SfEP meetings about accountability groups: a group of individuals who share their goals, report back to each other and keep each other on track. That felt a bit too big for me, so instead I sought out a buddy. I knew if I told someone I was going to do something, instead of keeping it to myself, I’d be much more likely to do it. Luckily, my new buddy felt the same way.

We send an email every morning with our goals for the day and then send another email in the evening to report on what we achieved. We’ve been doing that since March. In that time I have:

  • Passed the SfEP basic editorial test
  • Upgraded to professional membership of the SfEP
  • Become one of the coordinators for the West Surrey and North Hampshire local group
  • Worked on 16 projects – 12 of those books
  • Gained a new publisher client.

I wouldn’t have done all that if I didn’t have my buddy keeping me accountable, telling me I could do it (particularly in the case of the editorial test!), and sharing her knowledge. We were at the same level of training and experience when we started, and we have progressed together. We both have someone to support us and tell us when we are worrying for no reason. We both have someone we can ask questions we think might be silly. We both have someone to talk to who understands our work and our processes. We’ve become more than buddies; we are friends. Our emails are now just as much about our cats and what we are having for dinner as they are about work.

Our buddy arrangement has been one of the best decisions I have made since becoming a freelance proofreader. If you would like to give it a try, find someone and ask them. There’s a good chance they feel as isolated as you do.

(This blog post only exists because I told my buddy I would write a blog post today.)

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‘Carat’ and ‘carrot’

Carat and carrot are, of course, homophones. And this means that phrases such as ’24-carrot gold’ are commonplace. It’s an amusing mistake, but not when someone else finds it in your writing.

CarrotsCarat

  • (or karat) a measure of the purity of gold
  • a unit of weight of precious stones

Carrot

  • tapering root vegetable (often orange in colour)
  • the plant that produces carrots
  • something offered as an incentive or a means of persuasion

My tip: carrots are root vegetables (and they will rot).


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

 

Notes from a proofreader: check for these words

WARNING: This post contains language some readers may find offensive. But we’re all adults, right?

You learn a lot when you work in the editorial profession. I’ve proofread texts on subjects from self-hypnosis to the Industrial Revolution, and they’ve all taught me something new. Some of the things I have learnt are very specific in nature, but some are more general and it is those I am planning to share on my blog.

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A big clock. Image: Pixabay

This post is about words you should probably do a global search for before you declare your editing and proofreading process complete. I knew about some of these from my training, but they pop up in real life with alarming regularity. “What are you on about, Hannah?” I hear you say. Well, I’m talking about misspelling words such as public, count and shirt. Leave a letter out of one of those and the result is a tad embarrassing. And it happens. I’ve seen it in real proofs for real books.

This isn’t an exhaustive list,  but I’ll add to it as I discover more. I suggest adding a global search for these words to your list of editing and proofreading tasks:

  • Cock (when you meant clock)
  • Cunt (when you really, really meant count)
  • Fag (instead of flag)
  • Poof (when it should have been proof – particularly a danger if you write proofreader a lot)
  • Pubic (when you meant public)
  • Shit (instead of shirt)

Obviously, you will sometimes deliberately use those words, but coming across an unintended use of pubic is never ideal. They are hard to spot because they are so similar to the intended word and we often read what we expect to be there, not what is actually there. Our brains will just fill in the missing letter. Spellcheck is not going to flag these errors for your attention, so checking for them is something you need to do manually (unless you have specialist software to do it for you). And if you only check one (although I’m not sure why you would only do one) it should be pubic. That one likes to pop up quite often.

Are there any words with missing letters that have left you red-faced? Let me know in the comments!

I’m still here

“I’m so busy” is something I have been saying a lot over the last few months. It started out as a joke with my mum, because she knows I have had some months of little or no work. So when I say “I’m so busy”, it’s not a complaint – I am delighted that I seem, finally, to be attracting a decent amount work. But it is my excuse for the lack of recent blog posts. I am still here, although I am usually to be found on Twitter. I’ve been taking part in #HampshireHour every Tuesday (apart from the one evening I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2), which is fabulous for local networking. I’ve met some lovely people. I also attend my local SfEP meetings and they have been a brilliant source of motivation and encouragement.

OscarMost of my recent work has been on books for publishers, but I’ve also worked with an independent author and on online content for a local business. I love the variety. The books have included memoirs, children’s fiction and a short story collection. I started out by specialising in non-fiction, but my fiction titles are adding up now (five at the time of writing). I didn’t expect to branch into fiction so quickly, but I’m enjoying it.

I was joined by a new editorial assistant in February. He isn’t very helpful: he tries to chew my pens, he likes to sit on my laptop, and he knocks everything off my desk. But he’s a sweetheart and his paws are usually clean before he sits on the proofs. (Don’t worry – he only sits on my printouts and not the publisher’s copies.)

I hope, now I am adjusting to being “busy”, to be able to blog regularly again and to catch up on some of the wonderful blogs I follow.

All the best, and please feel free to say hi!

Reasons I provide a sign-off form

This post expands on something I wrote on the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) forum a while ago. It was in response to a fellow member’s query about how to get feedback from clients, and I’m sure anyone who works as a freelance or on a project-by-project basis will know how difficult this can be.

A sign-off form is a relatively new addition to my documentation process, but it has proved to be an effective tool for gaining feedback. Previously, I was worried about asking for my client’s opinion of my work. (My thought stream sounded something like this: what if they hate my work? What if they hate me? What if they tell everyone I’m useless and I never get any work again and I starve to death and am eaten by my cats? Or worse, I have to go back to working in admin. Or retail.) But over time I have realised that isn’t very conducive to personal and professional progression. And, actually, most people are nice and want to say nice things. The client sign-off form has facilitated a significant boost to my confidence.

feedbackI first started using the sign-off form as a condition of my professional indemnity insurance (my insurer prefers that there is a documented sign-off where the client accepts the work I have done). The form simply asks the client to confirm that they have received the project and that it has been completed according to the brief and any terms and conditions. I have then added space (a comment box) for the client to use to leave any feedback they might want to give. There are two main reasons I added that box:

  1. It’s an easy way to get a testimonial. I find it awkward to ask directly, and it doesn’t put any pressure on the client to provide one. They simply can if they wish. (But I make it clear on the form that I might use their feedback for promotional purposes unless they tell me they would prefer otherwise.)
  2. I want to know if the way I have the approached the project is the best way for them. This is particularly important for clients I hope to develop a long-lasting relationship with. Some publishers like things done slightly differently to others, which might not have been mentioned in the brief. If I know what the client likes, I can do it. The form signals to the client that I want, and am prepared for, constructive feedback.

Nearly every client I have sent a sign-off form to has returned it, and returned it with positive feedback. I’ve had positive comments about the use of the form itself, so I’m reassured that it comes across as a thoughtful and professional document. This has led me to consider, so far, that the sign-off form has been a success. Once you have the template ready to go, it takes hardly any time at all to produce, and it is quick for the client to complete while still allowing for more specific detail than tick-boxes or similar.

Any fellow freelancers have suggestions for effective ways to get useful feedback? I’d love to know.

‘Foreword’ and ‘forward’

Foreword and forward are often listed as homophones, but whether this is true for your own speech probably depends on regional variations. I pronounce them differently, but I believe that when spoken in some other (particularly American) accents they sound the same.

Foreword

  • an introductory statement to a book

Forward

  • directed, travelling or moving aheadforward-arrow
  • at, in, near or towards the front
  • onward in order to make progress
  • bold, disrespectful or overfamiliar
  • well developed or advanced
  • of or relating to the future or favouring change
  • an attacking player in various sports
  • towards or at a place ahead or in advance
  • to send on to a destination
  • to advance or promote

My tip: a foreword is composed using words.


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

Royal Holloway update

There have been some changes to Royal Holloway’s proofreading scheme since I became an approved proofreader in 2015.

RHUL

Founder’s Building in spring

Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) is one of the UK’s leading universities and my alma mater. It is located in Egham, Surrey and is famous for the beautiful Founder’s Building. You might recognise Founder’s from its fleeting appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron (it was really weird to see Thor outside somewhere I know so well).

The proofreading scheme is open to postgraduates and only allows the identification of errors. Undergraduates looking to improve their writing are encouraged to attend workshops and meetings organised by the Centre for the Development of Academic Skills (CeDAS) and are not currently allowed to use the proofreading scheme.

The identification code and proofreading policy remain the same, but the method of arranging the proofreading work has changed. This is what happens:

  1. The student’s supervisor completes a proofreading consent form and the supervisor sends the completed form to CeDAS.
  2. The student uses CeDAS’s online booking form to request the service of a proofreader from the approved list.
  3. CeDAS send the booking request to the proofreader. The proofreader contacts the student with a quote and timeframe for the work.
  4. The student sends the proofreader the final draft and the style guide.
  5. The proofreader returns the work and receives payment. The student makes corrections and then submits the work, making sure to acknowledge the use of a proofreader.

I’m happy to discuss my availability with RHUL students before they complete the booking request, but I can’t make any guarantees until I receive the official form from CeDAS. It is also important that students familiarise themselves with the level of intervention they can expect. You can read more about the scheme here.

‘Moose’ and ‘mousse’

The misuse of moose and mousse is another one of those mix-ups that can be slightly amusing. If I read something like “I ordered a moose for dessert” or  “we photographed a mousse in the wild” I can’t help but play those little scenarios out in my mind (but then I am easily amused).

mooseMoose

  • a large deer with big, flattened antlers (also referred to as an elk)

Mousse

  • a smooth, light dish usually made with cream and egg whites
  • the mass of tiny bubbles on top of a sparkling wine
  • a foamy substance used to style hair or as a cosmetic or skin care product; to style using mousse
  • the emulsion of oil and water after an oil spill

My tip: a mousse is often a dessert.


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online

‘Leak’ and ‘leek’

This post is inspired by one of my favourite GIFs and probably the only part of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 I can actually remember: “Ahh! There’s a leek in the boat!”. I’ve spent more time rewatching that clip than I care to admit.

Leak and leek are, of course, homophones. The similar spelling means that they are frequently used in place of each other.

Leak

  • a crack or hole that allows the accidental escape or entrance of liquid, gas, radiation, etc.; to allow the accidental escape or entrance of contents through a hole or crack
  • the escaping or entering liquid, etc.
  • a disclosure of secret information; to make secret information public
  • an act or instance of leaking

leekLeek

  • a plant of the onion family with a slender cylindrical white bulb and flat green overlapping leaves

My tip: leeks are green. And if you would like to describe something that resembles a leek, I have just the word: porraceous.


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online

‘Less than ten items’ is not wrong

I have already written about when to use fewer and less but I would like to address this phrase specifically:

supermarketLess than ten items.

Many people don’t like it – they insist that it should be fewer than ten items. Arguments rage all over the internet and people mutter angrily at signs above supermarket checkouts.

This is my take on the debate:

The use of less in this phrase is fine. Everyone should calm down.

Less is correct in this phrase because we are thinking of a total amount rather than individual units. It’s the same reason we would say less than five days or less than £10,000. We wouldn’t say fewer than 18 years old or fewer than 50 miles. This reasoning applies when the phrase takes a slightly different form, such as ten items or less.

This is how Pocket Fowler’s explains it:

Supermarket checkouts are correct when the signs they display read 5 items or less (which refers to a total amount), and are misguidedly pedantic when they read 5 items or fewer (which emphasizes individuality, surely not the intention).

And to be technical about it, the full-size Fowler’s adds:

In phrases like the above, less is a pronoun, not an adjective.

If you have trouble determining when to use less or fewer, the best thing to do is remember that fewer refers to number and less refers to quantity.


Sources:

  • Oxford Dictionaries Blog
  • Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2015
  • Pocket Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Online